Alice Song / Sun Staff Photographer

On April 26, the Faculty Senate debated the Consensual Relationship Policy, one of the key proposals debated at the University this year.

May 9, 2018

Faculty Senate Meeting Tackles Questions Following Year of Back-to-Back Proposals

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The Faculty Senate meeting on Wednesday touched on a number of campus questions that remain to be answered, with proposed consensual relationship policies and discussions regarding reorganization of the social sciences at the forefront of the meeting.

“The undergraduate ban is a sure thing,” said Charles Van Loan, dean of faculty, referring to the complete ban on sexual relationships between undergraduates and professors, which is in both of two proposed Consensual Relationship Policies. “We will be the last Ivy league college to get that.”

Columbia University passed a ban on all relationships between undergraduates and faculty in April, the Columbia Daily Spectator reported, and the University of Pennsylvania did so in March, according to the The Daily Pennsylvanian.

“All this stuff is on Martha’s desk,” said Van Loan. He continued, describing the challenge for President Pollack to take the input of all the bodies who voted on the proposals, which included the Student Assembly, the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, the Employee Assembly, the University Assembly, the Faculty Senate and the CRP committee.

The final policy would likely be a mix of both proposals, Van Loan said. “The final destination of all this is official University policy.”

The Senate then shifted to discussing proposed ideas for strengthening the social sciences. In late February, the Committee on Organizational Structures in the Social Sciences issued a series of proposals, as The Sun previously reported. The April Senate meeting, according to its transcript, primarily discussed the proposed merger between the College of Human Ecology and the School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

In an interview with The Sun prior to Wednesday’s Senate meeting, Van Loan promoted the the discussion as an opportunity to deliberate on ideas besides the proposed merger.

“The way to get the merger option ‘off the table’ is not to shout it down but to show that its touted ‘advantage’ can be realized more effectively by some combination of the other options,” Van Loan wrote in an earlier email to The Sun.

Prof. Kim Weeden, sociology, discussed the potential benefits of a “superdepartment proposal,” which she described as a “less aggressive type of merger.” Weeden said that past attempts of the University to encourage collaboration have been “halfway measures”

Weeden noted that a ‘superdepartment’ would not be incompatible with other proposed ideas, like a public policy school, citing Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs as an example.

Prof. Daniel Lichter, policy analysis and management, also presented at the meeting and was a proponent for change.

“We’re so 1950s in a lot of ways about how we organize some of our one-off departments,” Lichter said, who furthered that the University needs to “revitalize our brand.”

“I don’t think we should start out by saying no,” Lichter said. “I think we should start out by listening, regardless of what our situation is.”

Opinions diverged on the question of who should be spearheading change, if anyone. One faculty member questioned why individual members who were being affected by this discussion were not the ones making the decision. Others likened the debate surrounding reorganization of the social sciences to that which surrounded the formation of the business school.

One new proposal included the formation of a “virtual school” that would permit voluntary affiliation into departments such as “health policy” or “environmental policy.” Prof. John Cawley, policy analysis and management, touted that the creation of a “virtual school” could be done “immediately at no cost.”

Weeden warned against this idea, specifically the “notion that we can take our existing structures and overlay more structures without incurring the cost.”

Other speakers advocated for increased incentives for professors to engage in interdisciplinary studies instead of the proposed ideas for restructuring, as well as a school of public policy.

The future timeline for any structural change remains unknown.